Monday, 29 November 2010

TV Dinners

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/31/Tvdinner.jpgIn a previous post I talked about how habit affects our eating patterns.  Watching TV while eating is another factor here.  Not only do we get into the habit of eating while watching, but studies show that TV viewing has a number of effects that make eating more problematic.

Firstly, if we're watching TV (also reading, surfing, etc) while we eat, studies show we will eat more.  This is because we're not being mindful of our eating, and so are less likely to pick up on the signals our body sends us to tell us we're full.  These signals are, in any case, much weaker than hunger signals.  After all, in the grand scheme of things, if you didn't notice you were hungry and do something about it you'd die, whereas not noticing you've had just about enough simply means you store a bit for later, which the body doesn't think is necessarily a bad thing.

Secondly, watching TV changes our brain waves to a more relaxed state, which slows our metabolism down.  So, eating while viewing TV we not only eat more, but process it more slowly.

Thirdly, sitting in front of the TV contributes to a sedentary lifestyle, which also slows the metabolism. 

So, a treble-whammy making eating in front of the TV a weight-gain combo! 

What, then, is the alternative?  Fritz Perls, in Ego, Hunger and Aggression suggests paying attention to what you eat, to the flavours, textures and tastes.  Deanne Jade talks of mindful eating and makes some suggestions to help make it feel more of an occasion, such as eating off your best plates, wearing something nice while you eat, and being aware of the presentation of the food to make it as appealing as possible.  There's a bit of a L'Oreal feel here - because I'm worth it :-)

However, especially if you eat with others who are also in the habit of eating in front of the box, changing this may meet with a lot of resistance.  Deanne suggests trying to make just one meal a week mindful to begin with, and see how that goes.  Personally, I have found this quite tricky, in part because of the emphasis there is in our culture about being productive.  Just eating seems like a waste of time, when I could be doing some thing else at the same time.  If I watch TV with dinner, it leaves more time after dinner to do "worthwhile" things.  Or else I read something work-related while having lunch, and surf and answer emails while eating breakfast.

I think perhaps I need to reframe this.  Spending time on eating mindfully is a way of saving time spent in the gym or agonizing in clothes shops, or just feeling bad about myself.  So, productive in a less obvious but still very real way.

Do you eat while watching television?  How would it feel to try to change this habit?  Looking forward to hearing your experiences, I could do with some help on this one!

Friendship

I recently got a new deck, a little different to a normal tarot or oracle.  It's called the Dharma Deck, and contains 52 square cards.  On one side they have a black and white image taken in India, while on the other they contain quotes from Indian sages.

The first draw I did from this deck revealed this image.  Friendship is something I've been thinking about quite a bit of late.  For one thing, my Dear One's fortieth is coming up, and thinking of an invite list made us stop and consider the friendships we've developed, kept or lost over the years.  For another, having moved country several times I notice differences in the speed of getting to know people in different contexts, and the kinds of friendships I've created at various times in my life.  Then there's the fact of internet connections and communities of various kinds, be it Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs, or just plain old email.

Amazingly, my oldest friend, who I've known since I was four, is still one of my best and closest friends.  At times we have grown apart a little, but our paths have always converged again.  Other friends who once were very close have disappeared from my life entirely.  Then there are people I would like to consider friends, yet do not know that well still.

Generally, friends I have made more recently match my current interests better than older friends (except for my oldest friend, with whom I still share many common interests).  However, with newer friends the level of trust isn't always the same as with people who I have known through thick and thin.

I guess most of this seems commonsensical.  Still, it's interesting to ponder the nature of friendship.  How do we form relationships with people?  Is it like falling in love, that sometimes you just click and it's as though you've known one another forever?  What does it take to build a friendship?  And what, for instance, of internet friends?  Does it make a difference if you have met them IRL too?

Even when you read someone's blog, or their posts on a forum, it's often the case that the subject matter is limited, the context narrow.  So, you only get to know a few aspects of that person.  Meeting in real life there is the possibility for much wider contexts to be drawn in, through happenstance, other people, different activities.  On the other hand, some people only meet in very specific circumstances, so their friendship even in the flesh is still restricted.

There have been notable cases of the unrealistic nature of internet relationships, be it romances or Facebook friends.  But isn't this partly the nature of the media - we are more often made aware of where and when things go wrong, rather than the myriad ways in which they go right and enrich our lives.  I feel a lot of care and affection, as well as interest and stimulation, with respect to my internet friends.  We communicate because we have common interests, and do so quite regularly, but each when it suits us.  Does this make these relationships more or less selfish or real?

Another aspect of meeting people face to face is the fact that appearance then makes more of a difference to how we assess the person.  I notice that among my old school friends I am the least heavy, while among my friends made in Spain I am the heaviest.  The friends I am making now are more mixed.  Does this say anything about me, about them?  Does it matter at all?  What about if all your friends are constantly on diets?  Or if they're all slim and don't seem to have to work at it?  How do these things make you feel about them, and about yourself?

You see, friendships are important not just because they connect us with others, but also because they help us to define ourselves, to get to know ourselves as much as we are getting to know the other.  We create ourselves every day in what we do and say and think, and we do this through our relationships with other people.  So, who we choose as friends affects who we are as people and how we feel about ourselves.

And what of bad friendships, like the earthen jars of the quote?  Do you stay in touch, just because you always have?  Or allow yourselves to drift apart, thinking of them sometimes with a touch of nostalgia?  Are there any with whom you've made a definitive break?  If so, what prompted you to do it?

I broke with one friend because it felt like the relationship was one-sided, and I felt drained when I was with her.  I started to dread her phone calls, and began screening all calls.  I realised if I felt that anxious about having to speak with her, there was something really off with the friendship.  I've wondered occasionally if I should have tried to talk to her about it.  However, part of our relationship was that we'd have these long conversations - mainly about her problems - which seemed to come to some kind of resolution, then she'd go and do exactly what she'd done before.  So, it felt a bit pointless.  After all, it was always just talk and never made a difference!

How do you feel about your friends, both internet-based and other?  How do you make friends, and do you ever break with friends?  And what makes a good friend?

Images from Dharma Deck, published by Mandala.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Treats, temptations and cravings

Following some of the advice Deanne Jade gives in her courses on eating disorders and obesity, I've changed a lot of things in my diet and patterns of eating.  I try to eat little and often, have more protein, and don't worry so much about eating before exercising (well, I wouldn't eat a steak, but then I never liked steak anyway!).

However, one thing Deanne emphasised over and over was how much of an effect something incredibly basic has: habit!  That's why she focuses so many exercises on change, because if we can become more flexible in any area of our life, that acceptance of change will also help us fight bad habits.

This question of habit, though, is a tough nut to crack.  Despite having made some huge changes to the more conscious areas of my food routines, the bit I'm finding really difficult is the question of habits around treats!

After a hard day, I love to sit on the sofa and indulge in some tasty chocolate.  But rather than just having one piece, and even though I've just eaten dinner, my habit is to have quite a few treats.  I find it reasonably easy to control my eating at other times, but I guess there's a sense of "I've had a hard day, I deserve something nice!"

The problem, though, is summed up very nicely in this delightful card from the Oracle of Shadows and Light: Carnivorous Greenhouse.  The price of giving in to a little temptation is that my desire gets out of control.  Very reminiscent of "Little Shop of Horrors" ;-D  Instead of being eaten by carnivorous plants, though, it's me doing the eating.  Or, I sometimes think of it as being devoured by my own bad habits.

I try to eat "good" chocolate - dark and without too much stuff added.  After all, I agree with Andrea of Amazing Body Now, that one of the problems in modern society is the number of chemicals in our food.  Not just that, I read a while back that if we actually prepared all the food we ate (even cookies and sweets) we would lose weight.  I'm not sure if the person who wrote that was thinking of chemicals that you wouldn't put into home prepared food, or the fact that it takes a lot longer to shop for ingredients and bake cookies from scratch than it does to just buy cookies, or the fact that smelling baking cookies may already satisfy part of your desire.  There are probably aspects of all three at work.

I admit, though, that I buy cookies ready-made rather than baking my own - who has time, right?  And that's probably a big part of the problem right there - I don't feel like I have time for a lot of things.  How many people in our modern societies feel that life is hectic and there's always more to do than time in the day?  And how does that affect our sense of satisfaction with life?  Chocolate is so satisfying...

Anyhow, I decided to draw a card from the Oracle of Shadows and Light asking, what do I need to balance the energy of these two aspects - Candy Cane Angel (feeling I deserve a treat) and Carnivorous Greenhouse (the price of temptation)?

Seemingly surprising, given my reading earlier this week, the card I drew was Angel of Alchemy.  In the earlier reading this card figured in the position of "Now is not the time for...", but I often see this position more as "Now is not YET the time for..."  Nevertheless, I'm not going to suddenly start believing in miracles, so I decided to dig a little deeper into the symbolism.

Alchemy was originally a system attempting to turn base metals to gold and create an elixir of longevity.  However, many nowadays, following Jung, see it more as a philosophy for self-actualization.  One important aspect of this highlighted particularly in the Thoth Tarot is the need to join opposites, such as masculine and feminine energies  So the energy of the Angel of Alchemy is a perfect match for what is needed to unite two opposing forces (and an interesting match to the Chariot in another reading last weekend).

According to Jung, this form of alchemy was a psychological process of digging into the darkness of the unconscious, unearthing opposites to what was acknowledged in daily life, and gradually integrating these aspects into consciousness. 

The message I get here, then, is that I need to do more work on the roots of my issues around treats, to unearth where these started, and how they've grown and developed over the years.  Once again (drat) it's not about a quick fix.

Deanne Jade recommends an interesting exercise, which could be done alone though it's certainly facilitated by having someone who can ask questions, listen and reflect.  She calls it the lifeline.  On the x axis you put the years of your life, from birth to the present.  On the y axis you put your approximate weight, be it in lbs, kilos, dress sizes, a combination of these, or just a measure like "too thin, thin, normal, fat, too fat".  Then you mark on particular events and situations in your life and track them against your weight.  For example, when you started menstruating (for women), when you were bullied at school, when your parents divorced, when you got interested in sex, when you had kids.  These are fairly generic situations or events, but everyone will have their own important life moments, not all specifically related to food or weight.

When I did this I found it fascinating to see the patterns that emerged, and the events that I remembered and which seemed relevant in retrospect.  And it isn't a one-off thing, you can add to the lifeline as you notice different things.  Around the question of treats, for instance, I realised last night that my TV/sofa/treat pattern started before I was a teen.  My mother was very into "healthy" food - we never had white bread in the house, and only had desserts for birthdays or dinner parties.  So, once I started getting pocket money I would buy chocolate and eat it while I was unsupervised in the living room.  An aspect of rebellion as well as pleasure, an assertion of my difference from my mother!

So, dear reader, what are your temptations and treats?  What unhelpful habits do you have around food?  And can you think when these first started?


Images from the Oracle of Shadows and Light by Lucy Cavendish and Jasmine Becket-Griffith, published by Blue Angel.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Friday Oracle

Having been delighted with the Oracle of Shadows and Light, I decided to use it to do a draw for the day.  The card selected at random was Voodoo in Blue: Back off!

Here we see a sneering, dark-winged fairy in stripy tights, with a strange voodoo doll in her lap.  Her message seems to be, "Don't mess with me, or I'll mess with you!"  She's certainly full of attitude, and not willing to take any sh**. 

She seems to me to have been afraid in the past but now, with her doll, she starts to feel she has some means of defense.  She is realising that she can change things.  She makes me wonder: What would it feel like to acknowledge your power?  How often have you let others push you around?  Can you tap into an inner sense of capability?  Fighting back doesn't have to be aggressive, merely an acceptance of your own inner strength, whether others see it or not.

So today, don't let others tell you what you should or shouldn't do.  Be it friends, family, people from work, or anyone else, they have no right to decide your life.  Think about what you really want, and go for it.  Put on your freakiest clothes and go out dancing all night.  Or snuggle up on the sofa in some sweats and ignore the world.  Whatever, do it on your terms.  And if someone tries to tell you to do something different, tap into this fairy's sense of strength and, with a smile or a sneer, get them to back off :-)

Image: Voodoo in Blue from the Oracle of Shadows and Light by Lucy Cavendish and Jasmine Becket-Griffith.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Oracle of Shadows and Light

This morning I received this delightful oracle deck authored by Lucy Cavendish and illustrated by Jasmine Becket-Griffith.  It comes in a lovely oversize box with a very nice little book with black and white illustrations, card meanings, and three fairly basic spreads.  The deck itself is full of cute, big-eyed and yet somewhat sinister characters.  It reminds me a little of the Tarot of the Magical Forest :-)

So, I decided to do a reading with it to see if we'd click.  I thought about my life in general at the moment and drew three cards.  Given my previous post, the answer seemed very relevant!

Now is the time for... Angel de los Muertos


It's time to change, to transition to a new way of living.  In particular, it's time to look at things from a more spiritual perspective, but also to live for the moment.  A bit of Carpe Diem here.

Now is not the time for... Angel of Alchemy

The subtext here is "Miracle".  But now isn't the time for that, for trusting in some higher power to do things.  Although it's time for a change, that won't just magically happen.

Guidance... Nautilus Princess

Growth comes through personal development.  Working on intuition, listening to my own inner guidance on what I need and what will help.

Overall, the reading reminded me of something I read recently:
I asked for wisdom...
And God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity...
And God gave me brains and the strength to work.
I asked for courage...
And God gave me danger to overcome.
I asked for love...
And God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors...
And God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted.
I received everything I needed.
My Prayer has been answered.

-Anon.

I guess this sums up where I'm at right now, as shown by these last two posts.  I believe in a loving divinity, but I don't believe that I can merely surrender all my problems to this higher power.  I feel I need to work for what I want and find my own answers.

I imagine some might ask if reading tarot and oracle decks isn't also just trusting in something outside myself.  However, I don't think it is.  I trust that I will intuitively be able to read the message that I need to hear right now from the cards, which isn't the same as letting them tell me what to do or what my future is.

So, what do you think of this deck and this reading?  And where do you stand on higher powers and intuitive readings?

Images from the Oracle of Shadows and Light.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Higher Power?

In my last post I said that, although I believe in the divine, I don't seem to be able to offer up my problems to be taken from me as both the AA and Angel Therapists recommend.  Which made me ask: what would help me let go of my problems to a higher power?

Given the type of question, I decided to turn to one of Doreen Virtue's decks - Magical Messages from the Fairies, whom Doreen defines as nature angels.  The card I received was "Love Life".  I have to say, at first glance this made little or no sense.  I live with the father of my son, who I love very much, still feel passionate about and have lots of fun and laughter with.  I'm definitely not in the market for someone else!

However, taking some more time to think about this card in a less direct and obvious way, I wonder whether there is a message here about needing to believe that I deserve love, that I deserve to be supported in changing for the better?  Related to this is the question of whether I believe this to be a fundamentally loving universe?  If love underlies everything in life, why shouldn't I trust that I deserve to be loved absolutely?

On the down side, however, I agree with much that Donald Michael Kraig says in his blog on fluffy bunnies.  There's something about all the positive thinking, everything-is-divinely-guided-and-good stuff that doesn't ring true for me.  The idea that there is a shadow to everything and everyone seems more real.  So, if the universe isn't just love and light, why should there be a loving divinity willing to take my problems if I surrender them fully?

Even if I don't believe that everything is rosy and good, that doesn't mean that love isn't important.  Returning to the card, another idea that popped into my mind is that I need to express my love to others and to the universe more.  In part this is a reminder of James Ricklef's recent explorations into the healing power of expressing gratitude.  This falls into the realms of Positive Psychology.  It is healing to express gratitude, to explore values and beliefs, to work on self-efficacy.  This isn't just fluffy bunny stuff as it doesn't deny the bad or the dark or the difficult, but tries to access and increase the positive.

Another question this card raises for me is how my priorities should reflect my love.  For example, last weekend I spent time donating tarot readings to raise money for Children in Need.  However, I also felt I should be spending that time with my own son, instead.  A choice between two seemingly loving acts - what a dilemna!

Overall, I am left with a sense that surrendering my problems to a higher power is still not within the realms of what I can do.  However, thinking about examining the shadow side of this behaviour, and also of looking to the positive, to what values and beliefs underlie my issues both around food and around spirituality, seems a fruitful area for exploration.

So, dear reader, what do you think: Will angels take care of our every need?  Is there also a dark side to life?  Is the Universe guided by love?  Hope to hear from you...


Image: Love Life from Doreen Virtue's Magical Messages from the Fairies, published by Hay House.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Are you torn in two?

Have you yo-yo dieted for years?  Are you above the weight you'd like to be, but can't shift it no matter what you try?  Bulimic?  Many things said during Deanne Jade's course on counselling for eating disorders and obesity chimed with me.  One in particular that made a lot of sense after I thought about it for a while, and which I feel is an issue for me at the moment, is what she called weight conflict.  Although it may seem ridiculous at first, it's something I feel is well worth thinking about and exploring.

The basic idea is that, for people who have bulimia, who have yo-yo dieted, or who are above the weight they feel they would like to be, one issue keeping them from their "goal" weight may actually be an inner conflict.  Yes, there's a big bit of us that wants to lose weight, that wants to fit that lovely dress, or not feel embarrassed on a beach.  But there's also a little bit of ourselves that likes being a bit heavier!  There can be a lot of reasons for that - because it means you can demand the space you want, or not have to deal with relationship issues, or have kids, or feel womanly, or eat what you like without worrying, or be seen as non-threatening.  Whatever the reason(s), it is normally pretty personal, and can have a lot to do with what has happened in your life.

However, until we deal with this inner conflict, weight loss will never be either achieved or maintained!

Deanne suggested some questions to explore the reasons around a weight conflict.  You can try brainstorming answers, or just seeing what first pops into your mind.  Or, you could do a tarot reading on it.  During the training course I did the former, and now, realising that I need to dig a bit deeper, I have designed a spread and done the latter.

So, Deanne's questions were:

What are the benefits of being slimmer?
What are the disadvantages of being slimmer?
What are the benefits of being heavier?
What are the disadvantages of being heavier?

I have also added: what is my key learning here?

I decided to use the Deviant Moon for this spread, as the image of the Two of Swords (above) popped into my mind when I first thought about a weight conflict.  Here's the spread:
What are the benefits to me of being slimmer: Page of Wands

Being slimmer I have more energy and enthusiasm, I feel I can take on the world, and that I can tread lightly.  I feel I can go anywhere with a brave face.


What are the disadvantages of being slimmer: Wheel of Fortune

Things change, cycles in life alter, we have good times and bad.  Focusing just on being slimmer may not leave much energy for other things that could be more important.  Being slimmer I constantly worry about maintaining that slimness and so cannot enjoy the abundance the world offers.

What are the benefits of being heavier: Queen of Swords

Being heavier, I have more time and energy to focus on intellectual questions, and also more empathy with others.  I feel more grounded and powerful, settled and in control.

What are the disadvantages of being heavier: High Priestess

Being heavier for me is partly about using food to block difficult emotions.  But that also means I'm blocking access to my intuition.

What is my key learning here: Chariot

This may always be a balancing act for me.  I have used thinness as an armour, protecting me from thinking about anything except exercise and what I ought to eat.  I have used fatness as an armour, too, eating instead of feeling and dealing with difficult emotions.  Trying to find a middle path may feel very exposing and vulnerable, so perhaps I need to develop other forms of protection before I will be able to walk that path.

Similarly, based on traditional images of the Chariot I think I need to find a way to harness both sides of myself in this conflict.  However, the suggestion that willpower alone will do this seems rather hollow.  I am reminded of the sun and moon symbols on the traditional charioteer, and his canopy of stars.  A balancing of illusion and clarity, fear and enjoyment, through the auspices of a higher power?

A friend commented on AA's third step - giving oneself over to faith in a higher power, which can be defined in whatever way is useful to the individual.  Despite my belief in the divine, perhaps I don't trust that offering up my problems will lead to solutions.  Most Angel Therapy practitioners would say, I guess, that my doubt is what stops this being effective.  But how to get beyond doubt...

Overall, I found this reading useful.  It didn't bring up many of the things I had already brain-stormed, so I think the two together would probably be most useful to get a full overview of this subject.

I'd love to hear anyone else's take on this reading, my doubts about divinity, or your own explorations of reasons for a weight conflict.  Does the idea of inner conflict ring true for you? 


Images from the Deviant Moon Tarot.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Children in Need 2010

Children in Need is a worthwhile charity organised by the BBC which raises money for projects to help children across the UK.  Myself and other TABI members are donating tarot readings, so you can donate money to a good cause AND get a tarot reading.

All you have to do if you'd like to take part is click on the image below, donate, and leave me a comment or email me (info at innerwhispers.co.uk) so I know what your question is and who/where to send the reading to!

So, for a one-card Twitter or email reading donate ₤5 (go on, it is for charity!), and if you want a three-card email reading donate ₤15.  The offer's open all weekend...
Sponser Today!

Image: The Sun from the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

What's your magic number?

Almost every woman has one.  A magic number.  That number in your head of your ideal size or weight.  It might be measured in pounds or stones or kilos, in dress size or in inches or centimeters.  But most women have one, a magic number in their head: "If I was that size, my life would be great, or at least better."

The weirdest thing is that it's so specific.  It could be 9 stone 2, but not 9 stone 3 or 9 stone 1.  Why 59 kilos, rather than 58?  If you have a magic number, take a moment to think about "Why that number in particular?"

I know part of my "reason" for that particular number is to do with official BMI tables and government sponsored ideas of my ideal weight, as told to me by my doctor.  And that's not really as rational as it sounds, given that everyone has their own personal set weight range which their body will try to keep them within, influenced by genes, body make-up, age, and dieting history.  Yes, dieting history.  If you've dieted a lot in your life, your body compensates by raising your set weight range.

Another factor in my magic number has to do with my history, with my life experiences and how they track with my weight.  This still probably isn't very helpful.  After all, what was good for me when I was in my twenties and single is probably not entirely relevant to me coming up to age 40 and after having given birth.

So, if you have a magic number, have a think about how realistic it is, and about what it's based on, and whether it serves you to have that number in your head, or whether it just makes you feel worse about yourself.

I chose the Magician card for this post because he represents bringing thoughts and wishes into reality.  Another part, though, is choosing your desires wisely before you apply the full power of your intent.  After all, what's really important in life?

Image: The Magician from the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The E Word

Anyone who has ever even thought of losing weight has heard of the energy equation: energy in must be less than energy out. I'd like to take a little look at the second part of the equation.

Many people, when they think about upping their energy expenditure smack straight into a wall labelled EXERCISE!  Personally, I really enjoy exercise and can attest to its mood-improving benefits as well as its contribution to weight loss. Still, I completely empathize with people who can think of nothing worse.

For one thing, I too shudder at the idea of going to a gym. Loud, bad music, too many mirrors, lots of men potentially staring at me while I'm hot and sweaty, as well as seeing myself in that state from every conceivable unflattering angle (see comment on mirrors), not to mention the smell of sweat!  All these things make going to a gym a distinctly unappealing prospect.  Jogging is no better: hard on the knees (well, the whole skeleton really, but that's where I always feel it first), having to brave the weather, and out in public, I tried it twice before saying "Never again!"

However, there are several things most people don't know about their energy burning which I'd like to share here.

Firstly, two thirds of the energy you burn is due to just staying alive, breathing, even sleeping.  The second most important factor in burning energy is eating itself!  In particular the heat you kick out when you eat regularly.  Eating little and often not only stops your body feeling like it's starving by maintaining a stable blood sugar level, it also burns more energy as you keep yourself constantly warm.

Thirdly, comes the energy used in activity. Note, I didn't say the E word :-b Think about a common way of life these days. You get out of bed and sit down for breakfast. Then you sit in your car or on some kind of transport that takes you to sit at work, with perhaps a break to sit down to lunch. You go home and sit watching TV or surfing, then you go to bed.  Sit, sit, sit!

Recent studies show that people would burn 7lbs worth of weight if they just had to get up to change the channel rather than using the remote! Even if you do a half hours exercise a few days a week, if the rest of the time you just sit you will be classified as an "active couch potato".

Small changes make a huge difference in the long run.  The idea of parking your car a little further from where you're going, getting off a stop early if you're on a bus, train or tram, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, are all really worthwhile.  But if those feel impracticable or just a drag, what about simply starting with getting up and walking about the room you're in for a minute, every half hour?  Even this small amount of activity breaks the sedentary cycle, and will make a real difference.  After you've done that for a while, one of the other activities might seem more appealing.

With all types of activity, take it slow.  If you half kill yourself the first day, your motivation to try again a couple of days later will be very low.  Also, think about trying different things.  If you don't like going to the gym, what about a yoga class in a local community centre?  Or getting a DVD to try at home?  If you don't like a particular style of exercise, or a particular teacher, try another.  If you don't like jogging, what about getting on a stationary bike?

If all that sounds like too much work, what about getting a dog?  Sound stupid?  It's been shown that getting a dog is a great way to lose weight, as it encourages you to go out for a walk every day (that or get slobbered on, barked and panted at, and subjected to mournful stares until you do).

Any kind of physical activity will improve your body's ability to burn fat, will build up your strength and stamina, and will help lift your mood.  Well, at least biochemically.  Jogging in the city, breathing fumes, harassed by street vendors and almost getting run over by a cab may cancel out any endorphin benefits ;-D

Image: Youth of Coins from the Gay Tarot.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Hiawatha and the Hero's Journey

During the eating disorders course with Deanne Jade, she talked about fostering the inner warrior in ourselves and the people we help.  She mentioned the story of Hiawatha, and its idea of the young warrior going through an initiation.  While I didn't really like The Song of Hiawatha, because it's an American Romantic poem rather than having anything to do with Native American culture or beliefs, the idea reminded me a lot of ideas around the Hero's Journey, which is an oft-mentioned metaphor for the Majors of the Tarot.

What struck me most, though, was the idea that this initiation involves going out into the dark forest, learning about yourself and the world and how to deal with both, and then bringing that learning back and rejoining the community of the tribe.  While the journey through the Majors is often compared to the Hero's Journey, this is generally seen in terms of personal development.  There is a lot of talk of spirituality and transcendence, but little or no mention of how this knowledge benefits everyone else in your community.

Looking to tarot books on the subject, the idea of the Hero's Journey was mentioned by Rachel Pollack in "78 Degrees of Wisdom" back in the 1970's.  It is also found in Sallie Nichols' "Jung and Tarot", and most obviously in Hajo Banzhaf's "Tarot and the Journey of the Hero".  However, all of these focus on the growth of the self, on coming to terms with one's own shadow and transcending it, on individuation, as Jung put it.

Thinking about and looking at cards from the end of the journey through the Majors, though, I feel there is a sense of affinity with others, of others being involved in what it means to be a fully developed and complete person.  For example, if we think of older versions of the Sun, before the Rider Waite Smith child on a horse, traditionally this card showed two children.  We see this, to name but a few, in the Marseilles, the Thoth, and more contemporarily in the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn shown above.

In some more modern versions, like the Pagan Tarot, we see someone enjoying the sun, but on a beach with other people.  So, after the trials of the "dark night of the soul" which have been overcome in the Moon card, we return to the light, and to company, community and belonging.  No longer out on our own, we come back to a sense of shared joy in life.

When I think of depression, this is also very much the case.  When someone is depressed, they generally don't feel very sociable, but once they come out of that, they are ready to rejoin activities with friends, family and the world at large.  And studies have shown that when they do, they come back not only stronger, but with a better ability to empathise with others.

What, then, of the rest of the journey to the end of the Majors?  Well, in the next card, Judgment, the majority of decks show a number of people, or a family group, being called by an angel.  Even in decks where the emphasis is different, such as the Pagan Tarot, there is still a sense of the link with a wider community, both in our own time and through the ages!  The idea, perhaps, of assessing everything that has gone before, in your own life and in history, and seeing where you can now move forward, with new knowledge and purpose.

Then, the final card of the Major Arcana, the World.  What could be more inclusive, more indicative of joining with others, of developing a perspective that embraces not just yourself and your community, but the rest of the earth in its entirety?  Many traditional decks have this card showing a person standing within a mandorla, with saints representing the four elements around them.  Certainly some of this symbolism suggests a wider picture than that of the individual.  Some modern decks make this association clearer by relabelling this card Gaia, or by showing a picture of the earth from space (eg. the Ancestral Path Tarot).  The Pagan Tarot shows this through a couple united, and circled by the elements.  While this is more indicative of family and small community, there is still the aspect of connection with the whole of nature and the ecosystem through the elements and the associated elemental beings.

All this is not to criticise the goal of self-development.  In fact, this remains fundamental to the Hero's Journey.  It is simply an acknowledgment that this initiation does not merely affect the person who undergoes it, but instead enriches the whole planet.  This fits nicely with a lot of the ideas going around at the moment, such as the 13 Grandmothers, and the sense that we all contribute to the world and thus should do so with positive intent.

Images from the Initiatory Tarot of the Golden Dawn and the Pagan Tarot.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Weighing up...

Do you ever weigh yourself?  I know for years I have done.  More than a decade ago I used to weigh myself several times a day!  Then I read about natural weight fluctuations, and that we generally weigh more in the evening, so I stopped weighing myself more than once a day, in the morning.  After all, why look at a higher weight than necessary?  Even so, studies show that it's normal for our weight to vary by up to 10 pounds over the course of a year!

It makes sense that we should weigh a bit more in the cold of winter, and a bit less when we're outdoors and active in the summer.  Though clearly in modern, especially urban societies these differences are a lot less noticeable.  In women, our natural cycle is obviously going to make some difference to our weight, too.  And someone recently told me that they weigh more after they've been awake five minutes, even if they've been to the toilet in that time, than straight after they wake up.  I haven't tested that one ;-D

On the course I've been doing, Deanne Jade recommends not weighing eating disordered clients in session.  Although this goes against the policy of many clinics and institutions, this makes a lot of sense in terms of relationship dynamics.  After all, if you as therapist are weighing them, there are all sorts of issues around power, shame, and your professional investment in the client gaining or losing weight.  However, she takes her opinion further.  Not only would she not encourage eating disordered clients to be weighed in session, she encourages them not to weigh themselves, either.  In terms of therapists of any sort, she asks how we can recommend someone else doesn't weigh themselves if we are doing so?

Lest you feel this whole discussion is irrelevant to you, I return to the question: Do you ever weigh yourself?  And what do you make of what you see on the scales?

Deanne contends that weighing is actually a lose-lose situation.  If your weight has changed in the undesired direction, you feel like a failure.  However, if it has gone in the wished for direction you may feel that you therefore deserve a treat (often a slippery slope), or that you can't possibly keep it up (self-fulfilling prophecy).  Or perhaps, although it's changed it wasn't as much as you hoped, so you still feel like a failure.

When you stand in front of a scales and decide to get on and weigh yourself you are asking a question.  And you get an answer from the scales.  However, what is the question that you really want answered when you do this?

I found this a quite powerful reframing of the act of weighing myself.  What is it that I want to ask or prove by weighing myself?  Some people say they just want to check how they're doing.  This in itself suggests the question, "Can I trust myself and my body?"  As for me, the first thing that popped into my mind was "Am I loveable?"

Synchronistically, my scales batteries ran out at the start of the week.  So I have now decided not to replace them and have already retired the scales to the cupboard under the sink.  My Dear One's comment?  "Great, now I won't stub my toe on them anymore!"

So, the next time you think of getting on the scales, try to take a deep breath, step back from the situation, and check in with yourself to find out what it is you really want to know.  And maybe you'll decide not to get on the scales after all.

Image: Adjustment (Justice) from the Thoth Tarot.

Friday, 5 November 2010

An experiment around food

So, here's something to try if you want to explore and perhaps challenge the food scripts instilled in you by your parents, and your own feelings around food.  Go to your cupboard or fridge and throw out some food!

Stop reading now and go do it.

Yes, really, right now, throw something out.

Don't read the rest of this post until food that was in your pantry, fridge or cupboard is in the bin.




So, how did that feel?  Was it difficult or easy?  Did you manage it at all?  And if so, what did you throw out?  Was it something that was past its sell by date anyway?  Something you don't really like?  Or was it an item you would have liked to eat?  Even a treat you'd been saving?

And what thoughts did you have when you threw it out?  How did it feel?

When I was given this exercise, I managed to "forget" it until I was in bed.  I was tempted to just say, "oh well, some other time".  But instead I got up, went to the kitchen, and headed for the chocolate drawer.  Already it would be valid to ask, what does it say about me that I have a chocolate drawer?

In any case, not only did I throw away some chocolate that had been sitting in the cupboard for a few months, too good to chuck, but not really much enjoyed by anyone in the house, but I also threw away two types of chocolate biscuit that I had bought just a few days before, that are personal favourites.  I wanted to see what it would feel like.  Perhaps, though, having a chocolate drawer that still wasn't empty, it was less effective than it could have been - I knew I wouldn't be completely deprived.  But it did make me think about my shopping habits, and the fact that I had walked 20 minutes to a particular shop for those biscuits, without really needing anything else from there.  And I did have a little pang, thinking "now I'll have to make another excursion".

For me, then, this wasn't so much about the money spent or wasted, or a feeling of dishonouring those who don't have food available in this way - both very valid thoughts.  Instead, there was a recognition of the energy I'm willing to put into having "special" treats, and how picky I am about what those are.  Not that they are necessarily the most expensive or "best", but they are the ones I like the best, right now.  It also made me think about the fact that what my favourite treat is changes quite regularly.  Which I think is kind of good - not like many children who are neophobic (just imagine, the psychologists have come up with a special word to say kids don't like trying new things!)

So, what was your experience?  And what do you think it says about you and your relationship to food, or about your values generally?  Hope you'll give it a try, and share how it goes!


Image: Page of Swords from the Tarot of the Twilight Realm.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Reading on 2nd half of my course

Today I start the second half of the course on eating disorders with Deanne Jade.  I decided to draw some cards to look at what I need to know about these next 4 days.  I used the Tarot of Vampyres by Ian Daniels, a current favourite deck.

Now is the time for... the Prince of Scepters

Traditionally, this would be the Knight of Wands.  In this version, I still see someone who is passionately engaged with what he does, and who moves quickly to achieve things.  The warning that it's easy to burn out is highlighted by the pale sun in the sky behind him - can anyone say "turn to ash"?

How I read this is that I will need to put my enthusiasm into this time to make the most of it, to remind myself of why I'm doing the course.  However, especially given I've been up since 5.20 am and couldn't get back to sleep, I will have to ration my energy quite carefully.  Still, it seems like a case of getting out what I put in, so energy will be well spent, and I can sleep next week ;-)

Now is not the time for... the Four of Skulls

This card is equivalent to the Four of Pentacles in regular decks.  This image adds some interesting variants to my ideas around holding onto material things or hoarding your resources.  There seems to be the suggestion that the armoured figure is guarding the woman.  Does he see her as his possession?  Or does she have him as her bodyguard slave?  Certainly, there is a lot of stability and closed-off-ness.

The message I get here is that now isn't the time to try to hold on to specific relationships, nor to try to protect myself from what I will be confronted by.  I need to be open, rather than guarded, to allow myself to experience and let go, rather than wall myself behind old habits.  This chimes well with the following card.

Guidance... the Five of Grails

In an interesting twist on the traditional Five of Cups idea of being trapped in emotions that hold us to the past, here we see a mermaid sitting mournfully by the side of the water.  She feels out of place, trapped, and longing to return to past emotions and situations.  It reminds me of the fairytale of the little mermaid, who asked to be made human because she fell in love with a mortal, but had to make him love her or lose her life to the sorceress who changed her.  At points in her story, she longed to return to how things had been before she made her pact, to the comfort of home.  Also, she feared she had lost her love irrevocably.  However, this card is a reminder that we can never go back to the past.

As guidance, then, I see this card telling me not to get stuck in thinking about how things were, or the reasons why things happened as they did in the past.  If I want to move forward into a new way of being, I have to focus on where I am now, and where I want to go, rather than staying with blame from what was and feeling like I cannot change what is.  It may require looking at how I am using my intent - I notice her pentagram which is the wrong way up, signifying being stuck in the material rather than moving forward guided by spirit.  So, I need to think big, rather than look to the past, wallow in emotion, or trap myself in the merely material.

In terms of this course, it has been bringing up a lot of stuff about the past.  However, this tells me that I have to move beyond that and focus on the future, both in terms of myself as well as thinking about using this to help others.